Cartagena: fort, museum and farewell dinner
Aug 6, 2017
Today's weather was sunny and hot and very muggy. Just like N.J.
We boarded the bus at 8:40 for our brief ride to Castillo de San Felipe. Our local guide, Samuel, talked about the fort and the 4 month war. The Castillo was named in honor of the King of Spain, Philip IV. The fort was paid for by the Spanish crown, designed by Italians, and built by the slaves. The fort itself was built on the mainland, while Cartagena was on an island.
The size of the fort is misleading. It was constructed on the Hill of San Lázaro from the top down. It was in a strategic location, dominating approaches to the city both by land or sea.
Samuel talked about the 4 month war of the Battle of Cartagena de Indias. It was a, military engagement between Britain under Edward Vernon and those of Spain under the Viceroy Sebastian de Eslava in March 1741. The sea defenses took out most of the British ships and men, so they withdrew and attempted to strike by land. They had to go through mangrove and swamp areas to get near to the fort. The land defeated them from the terrain, the mosquitoes, yellow fever, and other diseases. The battle resulted in a major defeat for the British navy and army.
We followed Samuel up the steep ramp to the top of the castle. There were tunnels used in the fort that ran through the mountain. (We walked through a short section.) The batteries were set at three different levels to defend the fort. The lowest battery was a decoy for the enemy to take, then the other three levels could fire on that battery to defeat the enemy. We looked out over the area and Samuel pointed out a baseball field. He stated that in Cartagena baseball is #1, followed by boxing, then soccer.
At the top, Samuel used a map on display of the area in the 1700s to explain the battle. We then followed him back down to the fort entrance and back onto our nice air conditioned bus. We drove over to the Getsemani section of Cartagena. This section of the city has a different ambience from the section in which we are staying.
We walked the streets looking at the protest graffiti done by people upset being, at level 1-2-3, and paying level 6 taxes. Samuel talked about the various races in Colombia. There are three, the indigenous, black and white. They have commingled making mulato, zambo, etc. There are no longer any pure-blood Spanish. The discrimination is not racial in Colombia, but social and economical.
We stopped at the Plaza de La Trinidad, where there were three statues outside La Trinidad church. The three statues represent economy, politics and religion. Diego bought us empanadas from a street cart while we were in the plaza. Nice treat.
We then walked over to the area where if anyone wanted to buy the local rums that we talked about yesterday, they could. We had ten minutes until the bus would be by to pick us up to take us to our next destination. So Jean and I walked down and back the little alley with various shops while waiting.
Our next destination was an Emerald Museum/Store near Simon Bolivar Park/Plaza. On the drive back to the San Diego section, Diego took our farewell dinner orders. We had a choice of grilled sea bass, chicken roll, or primavera pasta. I chose the sea bass, Jean took the chicken roll.
When we arrived at the Emerald Museum/Store, we were greeted and offered a choice of refreshing drinks (Cokes, water, coffee). The museum section was a "tunnel" showing the emerald veins, and how they are mined. The museum also had a nice diorama of the emerald region in Colombia. The top three emerald nations are Colombia, Brazil and Zambia. The best emeralds in Colombia come from the Muzo region. At the end of our guided tour, we exited through the "gift shop". Jean looked but did not find anything that caught her attention.
We were now on our own until our 6:15 meeting, and 6:30 to leave using local transportation to our dinner restaurant. Jean and I returned to the room for the afternoon to relax, keep cool and repack. Today was the last tour day. Tomorrow is a travel day to Miami which begins our relaxing vacation, as opposed to our tour which are regimented and usually go-go-go.
Jean got dressed up for the farewell dinner, as did Lily. We met in the breakfast room at 6:15 for our final meeting. Diego reviewed our expectations cards that we had filled out at the beginning of the trip. We talked about the various Colombian people we met along the way, and then he had put together a nice 5 minute video presentation of pictures/videos he took through out the trip. We were throughly pleased with his effort. He will send a link once it is posted on YouTube.
At 6:30, we went out to our horse & carriage ride. We were to sit four to a carriage, and we enjoyed the company of Ron and Ana for our 30 minute ride. The sun had mostly set and the weather was actually pleasant. We rode first around the city wall, which had numerous people who had gathered to watch the sunset. Couples were making out, walking, sitting in the gun arches making out, and one woman was in an orange dress and it looked like she was in a spotlight (possibly modeling a product?). Then we rode through the streets of old town Cartagena.
At 7:00 we finally arrived at our restaurant (which just happened to be over the Emerald Museum we had visited earlier in the day) across from Simon Bolivar Park/Plaza. Montesuero Resto Bar was on the second floor. It was a nice upscale restaurant, one that you could find anywhere in the world. The restaurant had a view overlooking the park, which had some entertainment occurring with a nice crowd when we arrived. (Hey, it's a holiday weekend. One of their independence days is tomorrow.) The restaurant also had live music (a singer on an electric guitar was on the balcony). But like most restaurants in Colombia, the service was at a slow pace. Hey, we were on vacation and it gave us a chance to talk with the others.
Richard and Margie sat opposite us, Lily sat to my left (deaf side), and Ana and Ron sat on Jean's right. We had plenty of time before the appetizer was served to chat. Richard and Margie talked about their love of the states to the west of Texas. Unfortunately, with the live music and others in the restaurant, it was difficult for me to hear everything.
We were served red or white wine depending on your choice. The majority of the group was having the fish entree and chose white, including myself. When we were served the wine, everyone clinked their glasses with those nearby, then I caught everyone's attention for a quick toast (great vacation, great company, great guide). It was a nice trip and we will miss everyone.
We were served an appetizer of two small edible bowls with salsa and sour cream, and with avocado and cheese on the side. Everyone commented that the appetizer was a meal unto itself. For our main entree, Jean had the chicken roll wrapped in bacon, mashed potatoes, and grilled vegetables. I had the Sea Bass entree with coconut rice and grilled vegetables. The Sea Bass was great, nicely cooked, moist and flakey, able to cut with your fork. It just melted in your mouth. Jean ate all of her entree with no help. (Not having lunch today was nice, allowing one to enjoy dinner more.)
When we left, there were no carriages (didn't really expect them), so we had to hoof it back (get it?) to the hotel, following Diego. We arrived back at the hotel about 9:00. Since we were departing the hotel at 6:30, we said our goodbyes to everyone. Hugs and kisses all around. We also presented Diego with his tip and CD. Except for Ron and Ana (who were returning home to North Carolina), everyone else was going on the post trip to Ecuador tomorrow. We wish them well.
Then we returned to our room. I needed to repack my backpack, and Jean watched a movie. Early morning tomorrow, so I turned over to sleep about 10:00.